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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: February 2009
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Artwork of the star Fomalhaut and a planet orbiting around in it. Image: AFP/Getty
Galaxy has 'billions of Earths'
(Feb 15, 2009)


There could be one hundred billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, a US conference has heard. Dr Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Science said many of these worlds could be inhabited by simple life forms. He was speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.

Read more. Source: BBC

Scientists and engineers at Northrop Grumman work with the Backplane Structure Test Article (BSTA) or 'spine' of the Webb Telescope. The BSTA is only 1/6 the size of the backplane that will fly on the telescope. Credit: Northrop Grumman.
James Webb Space Telescope's 'spine' now being built
(Feb 14, 2009)


Scientists and engineers who have been working on the James Webb Space Telescope mission for years are getting very excited, because some of the actual pieces that will fly aboard the Webb telescope are now being built. One of the pieces, called the Backplane, is like a "spine" to the telescope.

Read more. Source: NASA

gravity map of the Moon compiled from SELENE data
The Moon reveals its weirder side
(Feb 13, 2009)


Results from the Japanese space agency's SELENE mission to the Moon are revealing details about why the lopsided lump of rock orbiting Earth is so unbalanced. A team led by Noriyuki Namiki from Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, measured the Moon's variable gravity, in particular around impact craters on the far side.

Read more. Source: Nature

space debris
Satellite collision creates copious space junk
(Feb 12, 2009)


Two space satellites smashed into each other on Tuesday in an unprecedented orbital accident. Government agencies are still assessing the aftermath, but early radar measurements have detected hundreds of pieces of debris that could pose a risk to other spacecraft. As first reported by CBS News, a defunct Russian Cosmos satellite and a communication satellite owned by the US firm Iridium collided some 790km above northern Siberia on Tuesday.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

A composite of images from NASA's Deep Space 1 spacecraft shows features of comet Borrelly's nucleus
'Dark' comets may pose threat to Earth
(Feb 11, 2009)


Swathes of dark comets may be prowling the solar system, posing a deadly threat to Earth. Hazardous comets and asteroids are monitored by various space agencies under an umbrella effort known as Spaceguard. The vast majority of objects found so far are rocky asteroids. Yet UK-based astronomers Bill Napier at Cardiff University and David Asher at Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland claim that many comets could be going undetected.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

SGR J1550-5418
NASA's Swift, Fermi probe fireworks from a flaring gamma-ray star
(Feb 11, 2009)


Astronomers using NASA's Swift satellite and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope are seeing frequent blasts from a stellar remnant 30,000 light-years away. The high-energy fireworks arise from a rare type of neutron star known as a soft-gamma-ray repeater. Such objects unpredictably send out a series of X-ray and gamma-ray flares.

Read more. Source: NASA

asteroid approaching Earth
Hadron Collider relaunch delayed
(Feb 10, 2009)


The Large Hadron Collider could be switched back on in September – a year after it shut down due to a malfunction and several months later than expected. Scientists had said they expected the 3.6bn ($5.4bn) machine to be repaired by November, but then pushed the date back to June, before the latest delay. The LHC was built to smash protons together at huge speeds, recreating conditions moments after the Big Bang.

Read more. Source: BBC

asteroid approaching Earth
Asteroid bound for Earth! Warn your grandchildren
(Feb 9, 2009)


An asteroid that had initially been deemed harmless has turned out to have a slim chance of hitting Earth in 160 years. While that might seem a distant threat, there's far less time available to deflect it off course. Asteroid 1999 RQ36 was discovered a decade ago, but it was not considered particularly worrisome. Now, new calculations show a 1 in 1400 chance that it will strike Earth between 2169 and 2199.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Herschel Space Observatory. Image: ESA
'Silver sensation' seeks cold cosmos
(Feb 9, 2009)


This week, the finished Herschel Space Observatory will be flown to Europe's Kourou spaceport in South America. There, it will be bolted to an Ariane rocket and hurled into orbit. It will take up a vantage point a million-and-a-half kilometres from Earth, to open up what scientists expect to be an utterly fascinating new vista on the Universe.

Read more. Source: BBC

NASA Ultra Long Duration Balloon
Test balloon breaks endurance record
(Feb 8, 2009)


A NASA test balloon coasting in stratospheric breezes around Antarctica broke the duration record for balloons today. It has surpassed a record set in 2005, when a balloon carried a cosmic-ray experiment aloft for almost 42 days.

Read more. Source: Nature

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